The state of Washington has made the decision to provide workers’ compensation benefits to healthcare workers and first responders who are quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 while on the job.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Joel Sacks, director of the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, recently announced that L&I was changing its policy around workers’ comp coverage for healthcare workers and first responders who are quarantined by a physician or public health officer.
These healthcare workers and first responders who are quarantined will qualify for workers’ comp benefits regardless of their employer, private or public. Employers in the state get their workers’ comp through the State Fund, which will pay the benefits.
Prior to this change, these workers qualified for workers’ comp if they got sick, but not for being quarantined over the Coronavirus.
Read this story in the National section of Insurance Journal to find out who the high-risk workers are and how to protect them.
“These healthcare workers and first responders are protecting our communities,” Inslee said in a statement. “They need to know that we have their backs. This is the right thing to do.”
Workers’ compensation coverage can include medical testing, cover treatment expenses if a worker becomes ill or injured and provide time-loss payments for those who cannot work if they are sick or quarantined, according to L&I.
Current L&I rules already provide for workers’ comp coverage if healthcare providers and first responders become sick in connection with their job duties. Workers can file a workers’ comp claim up to two years after being exposed to a disease at work.
The expanded coverage takes effect immediately and covers eligible workers already under quarantine.
Washington is a monopolistic state, which means workers’ comp coverage must be purchased through the State Fund unless an employer is considered self-insured.
L&I spokesman Tim Church said the mandate includes workers’ comp provided by State Fund and self-insured companies and their third-party providers.
“We have informed the self-insured community as well,” Church said, adding that the rule changes are new, and that L&I has yet to hear any objections over the changes.
He said L&I has received 20 workers’ comp claims related to coronavirus, all of which are likely from State Fund because it takes time to get claims from third-party providers.
“These sort of claims are coming in,” Church added.
He said the decision to make the change stems from first responders who had direct exposure in late February responding to the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, where 22 elderly residents of the home contracted the Coronavirus and died.
“I know there were first responders who were quarantined because of exposure on the job,” he said. “We know there are going to be other claims that we’ll look at on a case-by-case basis to see if they fit in the guidelines they have.”
For instance, someone working in an office building who is exposed to the Coronavirus probably won’t be covered, while a non-healthcare professional working in a hospital who is exposed and quarantined may be covered, he added.
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